Recently, after reading Will Richardson’s article Footprints in the Digital Age, I began thinking about how much attention we pay to online safety and security without thinking nearly as much about teaching kids how to be literate consumers and competent creators of content. Richardson’s article started me thinking about how I might refine the way I teach digital citizenship to fifth graders.
While safety and security will never be left out of the curriculum, the 2008 Educational Leadership article convinced me to put more effort into helping my students think of digital footprints as only one part of the digital life equation. The other part of this equation involves teaching children to think proactively about the online narratives that they are creating and helping them begin to understand how other people will be searching for each of them — and for appropriate reasons. My students and their parents need to become curators of the digital content in their profiles, just as any highly skilled museum curator creates an exhibition.
A strong digital profile, Richardson writes, “Google’s well.”
This fall, when I teach fifth graders about digital citizenship, I will begin with a new introductory activity that encourages the children to imagine what their digital profiles will look like at the end of fifth, sixth, and seventh grades. At the same time, I plan to share Richardson’s article with their parents.
It’s a consequence of the new Web 2.0 world that these digital footprints—the online portfolios of who we are, what we do, and by association, what we know—are becoming increasingly woven into the fabric of almost every aspect of our lives. In all likelihood, you, your school, your teachers, or your students are already being Googled on a regular basis.